That belief in the squad kept PSU playing hard during the slump and then helped the Lions snap out of it with two straight road wins heading into Wednesday's home affair with No. 9 Ohio State.
But against the Buckeyes -- especially national Player-of-the-Year candidate Evan Turner -- DeChellis' expectations may have been unrealistic. The 6-foot-7, 210-pounder scored a game-high 25 points, including 10 straight for his team to repel a furious Lion rally, as OSU escaped with a 75-67 victory.
He's a special player, DeChellis said. [But] you have to make a stand and you have to put a pole in the ground and say you're not going to score anymore.
Most folks who watched Turner's show, which also included seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocks and a couple of high-wire dunks, maintained a more pragmatic view.
Penn State guard Talor Battle, himself an All-Big Ten performer and the author of 22 points on the evening, may have put it best when he explained, He's so dynamic, it's hard to guard him. We tried as best we could.
That's not to say PSU was strong defensively all night. Far from it, in fact, as lethargic defensive play by the Lions allowed the Buckeyes to forge a 17-point lead (49-32) with 13:50 remaining.
Ironically, they had held Turner relatively in check, as he had only 11 points at the time. But David Lighty was tearing them up with slashes to the rim, William Buford was working the short-range game and Jon Diebler hit two lead-widening 3-pointers.
Defensively, we were nonexistent, DeChellis said.
They weren't so existent shooting from the arc, either, having made only 1 of 10 triples to that point. But then Penn State picked it up on defense and unleashed a 9-0 run on 3-pointers by David Jackson (two of them) and Battle (one). The Lions were down 49-41 at the under-12 media timeout and the crowd of 8,721 was back into the game.
The Buckeyes kept PSU at arm's length for the next few minutes, leading 59-50 when Turner made a jumper with 6:26 showing. Then Penn State rattled off seven straight and the house was rocking as Jackson made a pair of free throws to make it 59-57 at the 5:15 mark.
I will say this about our team, we came back and made a run, DeChellis said.
From there, however, Turner made his own run. After playing set-up man most of the game, he suddenly began looking for his shot -- aggressively. He pulled up for a jumper that swished. Then he drove to the basket and was fouled by Battle, earning a trip to the line where he made both free throws.
Jackson countered with a layup but it didn't matter. PSU tried a zone but Turner elevated over it to score on two more jumpers. The second boosted the lead to 67-59 with 2:00 showing and it was obvious that even if the Lions could make another charge, Turner would take over again and end it.
We spent so much energy coming back, Battle said. Then for Evan to make those shots, it was the dagger.
When DeChellis was talking about Turner later in the press conference, one got the sense even he knew his team was not necessarily equipped to stop such a sure-fire NBA talent.
He's a great player, DeChellis said. I just want to be able to contain him, get into him, and don't let him do that.
Battle and his teammates wanted to do the same things. But after underachieving most of the year, this time it was difficult to blame them for not living up to their coach's high expectations.
The shots he hit, I honestly think you can't guard them, Battle said of Turner. Those last three shots down the stretch were all pull-ups in guys' faces. Those shots were big shots.
Penn State is now 10-17 and 2-13. Ohio State, which has now won eight of nine, is 22-7 and 12-4.
Jackson added 13 for the Lions, all of them in the second half.
Former PSU forward Jamelle Cornley, a Columbus native, sat in the front row and spoke with players individually during warm-ups for the second half.
The OSU starters played 186 of 200 available man minutes in this game. The Buckeyes got no points from their bench.
After fouling out, Buford walked to the OSU bench, and was serendaded with the customary left, right, left, right, left, right -- sit down! chant from the PSU student section. After he sat down, he looked toward the student section and grabbed his crotch.
PSU plays host to Northwestern Sunday at noon.